Comets & Solar System

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Comets & Solar System


Asteroids are irregular, rocky and solid bodies with no atmosohere, no rings, and cannot support life as we know it. However, more than 150 asteroids have one (sometimes two) companion moons- first discovered in 1993 whike observing the asteroid Ida and its moon Dactyl. Most are composed of clay, silicate and nickel-iron. Asteroids are found orbiting inthe asteroid belt between mars and Jupiter, but there are also Trojan Asteroids and Earth- and Mars-Crossing Asteroids.

Trojan Asteroids orbit with another planet, but do not collide with them. They do not fly out of the orbit because of the gravitational pull from the sun and planet, holding them into place. Earth- and Mars-Crossing Asteroids are asteroids that cross the planet's orbial path

Meteoroids appear as a shooting star when they interact with a planets atmosphere, causing a streak of light inthe sky. These shooting stars are known as meteors. Meteors come from comet particles and broken pieces of asteroids. Comets, when passing by the Sun, leave dust trails which earth passes through every year. The bits of debris enter our atmosphere creating light streaks in the sky; this is what is called a meteor shower. When debris breaks off a meteoroid and makes it on to earth, we call them meteorites. These can look much like earth rocks because they were burned while entering our atmosohere. To the right is a meteorite that is is one of 27 meteorites found to be from mars.

The Asteroid Belt is estimated to contain 1.1-1.9 million asteroids larger than 1 kilometer in diameter, and millions of smaller ones. Studyof the early history of our solarsystem shows that the gravity of newly formed Jupiter brought an end to the formation of planetary objects in that region, then caused them to collide with one another creating the asteroids we observe today. The gravitational pull of Jupiter still affects the belt today, by creating gaps inthe belt due to orbital resonance. This causes asteroids orbitibg to line up with jupiter and experience a force.

Comets are icy, dark, organic material left over from thebeginning of the creation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago. Each has a tiny frozen center (nucleus), no larger than a few kilometers in diameter, that contains icy chunks of frozen gases with dust particles embedded in them. When the comet comes close to the sun they heat up, causing an atmosphere (coma) to form around the nucleus. Then the solar wind causes 2 bright tails to form trailing behind the comet (an iron gas tail and a dust tail).

In July 2005 asa part of theDeep Impactmission, NASAsent a flybyspacecraft withan impactorinto the path ofthe cometTemple 1. As it impacted (seen above) two cameras and a spectrometer on the flyby spacecraft helped determine the interior composition and structure of the nucleus.

This gif shows evidence of Neptune having Trojan Asteroids as well as Jupiter, Earth and Mars

Ceres- the biggest asteroid found and discovered in 1801, making it the first asteroid found.

An image of the asteroid Ida and its moon, Dactyl.

Above is an artist's conception of our solarsystem's asteroid belt. One factor of the asteroid belt that is not easy to portray is the fect the eacg asteroid is actually

This diagram illustrates the eccentricity of the orbit of a comet passing by the sun.


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